Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Experience, Perception, Understanding and Awareness

Until you experience something firsthand, I don't believe you can fully comprehend it.

Sure, you can have a basic understanding of something, but I believe it takes a hands-on, face-to-face experience to have a true insight in regards to what you think you know. There is something about experience that is for me, beyond words.

When we learn about something that we haven't actually been through, we simply learn the facts. We might be able to demonstrate sympathy, hospitality and mutuality without having been through a situation (it is undoubtedly important to do so), but without having the experience we might never truly have a grasp on it. For example, you might be there for a friend when they lose a parent, but if you've not lost a parent you'll never truly know the feeling. You can over-exaggeratedly tell yourself you have no money, but until you've been flat broke you can't fathom what it's really like. Only after we have experienced the event, may we actually begin to conceptualize it. In reality, an experience teaches your entire being. As much as you let it, the concrete experience allows your mind, body, and soul to learn.

Experiences can change our perceptions completely. 

Indeed, we all perceive things quite differently. However, I think that as an American it would be wrong for me to say I didn't have a few preconceived notions about the Arabic culture as a whole before I traveled to Morocco. It's true. The fact that the world has stamped the title "Third World" or "Developing" on it doesn't help either.

Listen, Morocco was not the cleanest or most developed place I've been to, but I did notice that things were a lot more developed than I had expected. Most of the people I saw in Morocco were desperate, but they were at least working to make a living. Everyone came up and tried to somehow get money out of me. The areas I went to are highly dependent on tourism, and this is what they know. The people are not stupid. They simply do not have the resources that are readily available to many other people (like myself). They make due with what they have and they do what they have to do. I've been thinking for a few days, and am realizing just how much I judged these people before, without truly understanding anything about them. I feel terrible now. After seeing how they live with my own two eyes, I'm not sure I could ever make it work with as little as they do. In the end, the fact is that people are people. No person asks to be born into any certain flesh, place or culture.

You have to experience the bad to appreciate the good.

Seeing all of the things that they DON'T have in Morocco made me realize just how lucky I am. I've had all of these amenities for all my life and this experience made me even more thankful. I know that I can never fully conceptualize the life of a Moroccan because I am not a Moroccan, nor have I had to walk a mere step in their shoes (or lack thereof). I no longer judge this group of people, and it saddens me to think of how our perception of what we don't know is generally manipulated by society (among other things).

I've seriously taken so much away from this. This experience has made me reflect on my entire existence.  I realize now that a true understanding is most definitely based on experience. We need exposure in order to gain a fair perception. If we can't do that, we must at the very least be able discern the correlation between understanding and experience.
The town square of Chefchaouen

 Where the clothes are washed

 I'm sure this was only one of the daily chores

 Typical Moroccan clothing